BENDIGO drug takers' health may be at risk as they turn to benzodiazepines in the absence of illicit drugs, health workers have warned.
Workers report a rise in referrals for benzodiazepine use in Bendigo, mimicking a pattern around the country.
A class of prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, the benzodiazepines compound overdose risk in interaction with other drugs.
Bendigo Community Health Services alcohol and other drug non-residential team manager Jan Dunlop said many people had started to use benzodiazepines as a substitute for illegal drugs.
Ms Dunlop said closed borders meant illegal drugs were unobtainable, or cut with so many additives they had no effect.
She said long term use of the easily-addictive benzodiazepines was of real concern.
Ms Dunlop warned the risks of using these drugs use were "enormous".
She said they squared the effects of any other drugs in a person's system, meaning overdoses would have the effect of four drugs.
"This is really risky behaviour. If people aren't aware of this and are just popping a few pills here and there. They're putting themselves at risk," Ms Dunlop said.
"Combining prescription medication ... with other central nervous system drugs such as cannabis or alcohol drastically increases the risk of respiratory depression, coma and accidental overdose."
Ms Dunlop urged anyone struggling with addiction to contact their GP or BCHS to access treatment.
She warned benzodiazepine withdrawal needed to be directed by a doctor.
"Don't feel embarrassed, don't feel ashamed. COVID has had effects on people, you would never believe," she said.
"Get to your GP, or just ring Bendigo Community Health Services, and we'll get you access to treatment."
For alcohol and drug counselling contact:
- Bendigo Community Health Services on: 5448 1600
- The Salvation Army on: 5440 8450
- Anglicare: 5440 1100
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